Today’s matches are crucial to the two German teams that are taking part in them. After Bayern München and Bayer Leverkusen both booked their place in the Champions League Second Round, it’s the turn of Borussia Dortmund and Schalke to find their way into the last 16 of the competition. Things aren’t going to be that easy for the Revier teams as Dortmund need to match Napoli’s result against Olympique de Marseille to go through while Schalke need to beat FC Basel at home to reach the next round.
The question remains, though, who will go through? At Bundesliga Fanatic, we have different views:
At the very least Borussia Dortmund go into their final Champions League encounter against Marseille knowing that their fate lies entirely in their hands. A win in France means progression to the knockout stage. At the very worst, a loss coupled with a Napoli win against Arsenal also means progression for Jürgen Klopp’s men. Although Klopp warns against complacency against a team that wasn’t particularly bad in any of their group stage matches Dortmund should by all means come away with a win against the French side. Yes, they are missing several key players. In fact, Dortmund are without seven first choice players including just about their entire back four. Kevin Grosskreutz may even deputize at center back with Manuel Friedrich injured but where there is loss there is opportunity and that’s how Dortmund have gone about their injury-ridden season.
While Dortmund have won only once in France in Europe Marseille’s record in recent games against German sides has been very poor, losing to both Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach and going through a tough transition period at the moment, having just let coach Elie Baup go. Also, Dortmund’s most potent weapon, their dangerous counter attacks, should still be on full display. Reus, Mikhitaryan, Aubameyang and Lewandowski are all fit to play and only two teams have held them scoreless in their last 18 European games. The players will need little to motivate them, especially with chances in the league slipping away more and more each week, and know that once they reach the knockout stages the playing field will be leveled again and they will have most of their first choice players back. For Dortmund this is not only a “must-win” game but a new lease on a season that many are saying is slipping away from them. And when the going got tough, Dortmund have made a habit of usually coming out on top.
Fans of German football seem quite pessimistic regarding the chances of either Borussia Dortmund and/or Schalke 04 advancing in Champions League play following Wednesday’s final group matches. And there is legitimate reason for pessimism, as Dortmund’s injury woes and the poor form (along with injuries) dragging their Ruhr Valley rivals down make the necessary wins for either club tomorrow seem doubtful. But I believe both will advance from Wednesday’s games.
Let’s look at this realistically. Kloppo’s boys will be facing an Olympique Marseille team that not only is winless in group play, but has just sacked its manager, Elie Baup, after Friday’s loss to Nantes and will be managed Wednesday by Sporting Director Jose Anigo. Not only did Friday’s loss allow Nantes to pass the fabled club in the Ligue One table, but OM are only on 27 points after 17 league matches, while first-place PSG has already earned 40 points, Monaco has accrued 38 and former champions Lille have 36. Moreover, OM lost mainstay midfielder Mathieu Valbuena to injury in their December 3rd loss to Lille. Despite some good opportunities against Nantes Friday, especially the golden one flubbed by striker Saber Khalifa in the second half, OM have been shut out in three of their last four games (including their CL loss to Arsenal). Meanwhile, Dortmund have won three of their last four matches, including their CL return match with Napoli and their Pokal win, scoring 8 goals and allowing 3. OM have lost four of their eight Ligue One home games this year, and despite all the injuries, Klopp can still field a starting XI featuring players the quality of Lewandowski, Reus, Kuba, Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang, Grosskreutz, Weidenfeller, etc. I’d put my money on Kloppo’s guys, especially with so much at stake.
Schalke present more of a challenge in foreseeing a CL advance, as their form just isn’t what one expects for a team with so much talent. In the league table, they trail blazing Bayern by 17 points after 15 league dates, good for only sixth place, and have only earned 7 points after 5 CL group matches, trailing Chelsea (9 points) and FC Basel (8 points). But Basel, for all the positive shine they’ve gained by beating Chelsea twice in the group stages, only lead the Swiss Super League by a point over FC Lucerne and two points over Grasshoppers and St. Gallen. Basel could only manage draws in their last two December league matches against Grasshoppers and Young Boys. On the other hand, Schalke have only lost twice in seven home league matches, and with Draxler, Farfán, Szalai, Boateng and the man who answered Dortmund’s goal-scoring prayers in the Champions League last season, Felipe Santana, able to score goals, there is no reason to believe that Schalke cannot defeat a lesser team from a lesser league at the Veltins Arena Wednesday.
Borussia Dortmund’s chances are not looking as rosy as they might have thought a few weeks ago after the victory at Arsenal. With all their injuries in defence and midfield, with the added ones of Sven Bender and Nuri Şahin from the weekend, the latter doubtful for the match against Marseille and the former definitely ruled out, it leaves Jürgen Klopp with very little room for manoeuvre in a match that is crucial they get a good result. Admittedly, Olympique have had a tough time in the Champions League this season, losing all their five matches so far, but their home matches against Arsenal and Napoli both finished 1-2 and both the English and Italian squads were stronger than Dortmund’s current squad. I’m not necessarily predicting a loss for Dortmund here but a draw and a Napoli victory at the San Paolo against Arsenal, a team who can afford a two-goal defeat and still go through as group winners, isn’t a far-fetched possibility.
As for Schalke, their poor current form, names being thrown as replacements to their manager and recent poor form in the competition puts extra pressure on them. They trail Basel by a single point, so a win is necessary to go through. The Swiss side have Champions League experience and have beaten group leaders Chelsea twice, so they will go into this match with confidence knowing that they can beat anyone on the day, whether it’s home or away. The pressure for Jens Keller to deliver a result might very well be what keeps him in his job after the Winterpause and Schalke haven’t handled pressure very well in recent weeks, whether it has been holding onto a result or coming back from one. It took a great goal by Julian Draxler in the first leg to separate the two teams but I have a feeling that it will be Schalke’s poor form rather than Basel’s skill that will see the Swiss go through.
Agree with our thoughts? Profoundly disagree? Think that Schalke will go through but Dortmund won’t? Let us know in the comments box below!
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